18th ASOG Airman praised for selfless service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stacia Zachary
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A tactical air controller was recognized by the secretary of the Air Force with the presentation of a Silver Star in a ceremony June 26 for heroic duties while deployed to Southwest Asia in support of the war on terrorism.

Tech. Sgt. Travis Crosby, a terminal attack control-qualified TACP assigned to the 15th Air Support Squadron at Fort Stewart, Ga., was lauded for his handling of close-air support missions and innovative tactics employed to gain control over a hostile situation during Operation Iraqi Freedom on April 4, 2003.

While under fire, Sergeant Crosby was able to return fire on the enemy vehicles, killing more than 20 while simultaneously directing a precision strike by a flight of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs destroying enemy armor.

"The men who carry out missions such as Sergeant Crosby's don't ask for applause. They just put themselves in situations we only talk about. We could never fathom being in his shoes," said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne. "On the day in question, he found himself in a situation in which he acted in a very personal way that saved the mission without any regard to himself or his safety."

His citation recounted how Sergeant Crosby's actions allowed for the seizure of a six-lane bridge entering the Iraqi stronghold of Baghdad.

He served as the lead TACP for the Army's 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. On numerous occasions during the battle to maintain control over the bridge, the sergeant put himself in harm's way to ensure the safety of American forces crossing the Euphrates River.

Sergeant Crosby not only was able to actively defend his position, he also was able to identify another enemy threat and to call in support from aerial defenses to protect other groups of friendly forces.

He directed a flight of A-10s to an enemy's position, effectively eliminating them as a threat and saving the bridge from destruction. His quick thinking and insight during the 20-hour ordeal saved the lives of an Army engineer team in the river and allowed a task force to safely cross the bridge, enter and eventually gain control of Baghdad.

Humbled by the public praise, Sergeant Crosby chalked up his actions as simply being "real good at getting out of bad situations."

Upon reflection of the battle, Sergeant Crosby felt it was his training and split-second reactions that saved his life and helped him succeed in the mission.

"At first, the sound of bullets flying and bombs hitting really unnerve a person. Then shell shock sets in, and although you know all those dangers are around, you can work through them and do what needs to get done," he said.

Training cannot prepare a person for dealing with the aftermath and coming to terms with just how close a person can be to death.

"When I ran out to cover one of our vehicles, I had to engage two people with small arms," he said. "It was only afterwards that I was told that I had killed three more people. Just knowing there were more people dead in a ditch who were intent on killing me really shocked me. I guess you could say a heavy burden had set in. I really was lucky that day."

As a TACP, Sergeant Crosby and others like him are often linked with Army units. They serve as liaisons between the Air Force and the Army.

"We are the link between the ground forces and air forces," said Sergeant Crosby. "Once we go in and gain the upper hand, the Army owns the land and the Air Force needs permission to engage. We talk both languages, so we translate the needs of each."

"TACPs and battlefield Airmen are the cement of joint operations," said Col. Steven Shepro, 18th Air Support Operations Group commander. "Sergeant Crosby's medal says a lot about what our heroic Airmen are doing on the frontlines. I am extremely proud of them."

The Silver Star is the nation's third highest award designed solely for valor in combat. It is awarded for distinguished gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States or while serving with friendly forces against an opposing enemy force. Established in 1918 as the Citation Star, it was redesigned in 1932 as a medal with a retroactive provision allowing servicemen as far back as the Spanish-American War to receive it for heroic actions taken in battle.